Phthalates: Why Risk It?

Q: I keep hearing about the dangers of cosmetics. How can I protect myself?

A: Of course, the easy answer for me would be to say: Don’t wear them. But that’s neither realistic or particularly good advice.

Generally, most cosmetics are tested rigorously by the companies that produce them before they hit the market; however, be careful of cosmetics that might be found at dollar stores or discount centers that do not have a recognizable brand name.

One of the most concerning ingredients found commonly in cosmetics is phthalates. While there is still controversy over whether exposure to these chemicals in the levels found in cosmetics is detrimental to your health, why risk it?

You may not actually see the word “phthalate” on the label. Look for DBP or DEP. DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in personal care products, including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions.

Otherwise, there are some very practical tips for making your cosmetic use healthier and safer:

Never drive and put on make-up. Not only does this make driving a danger, hitting a bump in the road and scratching your eyeball can cause serious eye injury.

Never share make-up. Always use a new sponge when trying products at a store. Insist that salespersons clean container openings with alcohol before applying to your skin.

Keep make-up out of the sun and heat. Light and heat can kill the preservatives that help to fight bacteria. Don’t keep cosmetics in a hot car for a long time.

Don’t use cosmetics if you have an eye infection, such as pinkeye. Throw away any make-up you were using when you first found the problem.

Throw away any make-up if the color changes, or it starts to smell.

Don’t deeply inhale hairsprays or powders. This can cause lung damage.

Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting

Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at


Aud Nordby
Aud n4 years ago


Elaine A.
Elaine Al Meqdad5 years ago

Good article!

Elizabeth P.
.6 years ago

forgive me ... I have so little time, so I am just here for points for the animals ...

Melissah Chadwick
Melissah C7 years ago


beverly g.
beverly g.7 years ago

thks noted.

Melly Nunez
Melody n7 years ago

great advice. thanks!

gail d.
gail dair7 years ago


Vural K.
Past Member 8 years ago



Connie D.
Past Member 8 years ago

We've become enslaved by the cosmetic / fashion / arts & media / pornography industries. They are saying that without altering your body and wearing trendy expensive garments you probably won't achieve success in love and life in general.

Pure human beauty is never achieved and maintained through tanning, painting, staining, dyeing, piercing, "lifts & tucks", implants, waxing, shaving, adorning with fabric and accessories, or from being able to master the Kama Sutra.

Humans flourish and beauty abounds from inside out when we have daily contact with our Creator and maintain a balanced, peaceful and joyful lifestyle in work, play, food, shelter, health, clothing, money, community involvement, family, friendship and romantic relationships.

Caralien S.
Caralien S9 years ago

Dr. Brendt, you didn't even answer the question.

Cosmetic ingredient safety--that is what was questioned, not whether the makeup has gone bad or expired or whether you're going to poke your eye out putting mascara and eyeliner on in the car or that sharing makeup might lead to contamination--anyone who has been playing with makeup since the 1970's is aware of those things. That's up there with throw liquid-based items out within 3 months, and that saliva shouldn't be used to re-liquify dried out mascara. Of course things that smell rotten or off shouldn't be consumed/used.

Telling people to get pricier and premium brands while avoiding discounted brands smells of elitism; even premium Juice Beauty came up with its own discounted Juice Organics line sold at places such as Target. Super-premium brands have some of the most offending ingredients while practising animal testing.

You didn't even state the problem with phthalates, just that they existed (

You haven't mentioned parabens and other preservatives. Neuro-toxins. Ingredients that are potentially bad for pregnant women. Aluminum. Lead in lipstick and tar in hair dye. Nanotechnology. Not even a link to the plethora of articles this site has ( or to Skin Deep's Cosmetics Safety Database (